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Old April 20, 2018, 17:16   #1
Join Date: Aug 2009
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Vaults, banishment, and exploits

Prompted by some of the discussion about whether you should be able to banish monsters in vaults, I have some thoughts on the matter.

1) Vaults are supposed to be high risk - high reward. However, because of the nature of permadeath games, and angband in particular, anything risky is almost never worth it. Angband gets dinged especially hard in this matter because there's no forcing clock, you can just endlessly respawn the level until you get the items you want without the danger aspect. Therefore, players only tackle vaults if they know they can handle it. Removing the abilities for players to handle vaults will mean that experienced players will just skip them, and inexperienced players will just die to them. (Don't read the implication that banishment is needed to handle vaults, it's not, I'm speaking more generally) Also note that this environment changes when you try to push turncount or add other restrictions like forced descent.

2) Greater vaults are large and full of monsters. Sometimes these monsters produce challenges, sometimes they're a stream of wimps to wade through. Almost always there's one or two monsters that you just can't deal, or don't want to deal with and have to remove through other means (teleport other usually). A common tactic is to open the vault and let the monsters funnel out one by one, teleporting away the ones you can't handle. This winds up being pretty darn tedious when the number of monsters is very large.

3) A common choice to banish in vaults are 'E', not because they're dangerous, but rather because they destroy items. Removing the ability for players to get rid of monsters with the destroy item flag will make many vaults pointless. (simple option here, don't allow those monsters to spawn in vaults). On the flip side, monsters like dreads are great to see because they'll wander around, picking up a bunch of stuff, essentially looting the vault for you. Maybe prevent monsters with pickup item from picking up stuff in vaults also.

4) Because greater vaults take so much time to clear, it's easy to get exhausted with them. Also there's some significant variation in size, some greater vaults are pretty small, some like Divisi are gigantic. They also vary greatly in loot. I might consider varying frequencies so the more gigantic vaults show up rarer. Rare, highly rewarding vaults can appear as often as super rare gear like the one ring. Maybe you only see some of the crazier vaults once in your angband career (like the amount of times I've found the one ring). Maybe never.

5) The improved status effects in v4.1.x should allow us to, in general, rethink how we approach removal options like teleport other, banishment, destruction and the like. If it's always the case that a vault will spawn with a monster that an at level character could never handle, then the player must always have some option for how to remove that monster. If we pull back on stuff like banishment or TO, then we should also pull back on the difficulty of vault monsters.

6) This is more long term thinking, but it might be worth having monsters in vaults be more "tied" to their location. As in they want to stay in the vault. This is tricky because it often leads to situations where you can abuse AI in very uninteresting ways. Some of the more interesting vault interactions come with never-move monsters, like Qs (including the dreaded nexus Q who is more annoying than interesting).

7) I believe we have more tools to edit vaults these days. We can think of more thematic designs. For example:

Here the gs are all silent watchers or perhaps other new thematic monsters, the $ represent treasure. The idea is the player runs through the room to get the treasure on the other end.

8) Vault specific monsters. Vaults vary greatly in both gear and difficulty, some variation is good in this front for sure. However, it runs into thematic problems. Often times uniques with escorts will spawn in the vault and the escort will be forced outside. Blanket bans on stuff like teleport other and teleportation are hard to pull off because often vaults will be produced where your only option is to teleport other, or avoid the vault. Imagine the vault above, but instead of silent watchers, those monsters are now colossi (or a renamed similar monster called vault guardians or something). Also add the restrictions that nothing in the vault can be teleported, the colossi never leave the vault, and no missiles or spells can pass from outside the vault to inside the vault. Can you engineer the situation where you can run across grab the loot and escape before the colossi block the doorway?

I probably have more thoughts that I'll remember later, but I think I'll stop here for now.
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